(Catholic Boy at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup / Photo Courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup)

It has been a sad week, what with the passing of Mourinho, who sustained an injury during a breeze and had to be euthanized. That is a gut punch that many in the industry never get over. Condolences to all of the connections.

It has been a controversial week, what with the stewards’ decision to intervene in a great race and invoke a penalty both on the horse and rider in the fantastic San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. By doing so, the stewards turned poetry in motion into pure politics. They turned a great race into a stupid debate. They turned great drama into turning one’s stomach.

(Editor’s note: For the record, I bet on Bolt d’Oro, and benefited from the change to move him up over the gutty McKinzie. But I still do NOT think it was the correct decision.)

To disqualify the horse is one thing, and I suppose an argument could have been made to penalize either one, depending on the victor. But to give Mike Smith days? Are you kidding me? Ridiculous. One of the reasons that people really do have a hard time justifying on sending their horses to the West Coast. Would love to see trainer Bob Baffert back up his words and send McKinzie East for his next and final prep for the Kentucky Derby. But, to be honest, I would love to see a Bolt-McKinzie rematch even more.

And, it has been a challenging week. While we are writing about “justifying,” what about that darn Justify? Good gosh. That sucker can run; can turn heads; can make believers. So much so that people are voting with their cash, as the bettors have suddenly made him the second choice in the latest “Futures Wagers” pool conducted by Churchill Downs this past weekend. The question remains now, can him break the spell of Apollo?

(Editor’s note II: I respect those that don’t think he can, and all the statistical data and arguments that support their position. I am a firm believer in history, too, and there has to be a reason why no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without having started at least one race as a 2-year-old for over 130 years. But I am realistic enough to know that while it may be improbable statistically, I am not naive enough to think that it be impossible.)

So, what’s up. It has been a typical week on the tough, hard, rocky “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” Below, you will see my current rankings. As you will see, I may be the only scribe in the universe that would have Catholic Boy on top. But I am sticking to the original opinion, until I see one more race — the Florida Derby.

From the moment I first saw this son of More Than Ready, which was on the track at Del Mar leading up to the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, I have been a huge fan. He is a man-child with a stroke as smooth as Tiger Woods’ back in the day (and maybe in the near future?). His win in the Remsen Stakes at the end of the 2017 season was his first try over dirt, and he was spectacular. And, his run in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay to begin the 2018 season was pretty darn good — especially considering he had only 4 works leading up to that event.

So, we are sticking…despite all the flare going on over at the West Coast. But we truly understand that Catholic Boy had better up his game — and we mean real soon — to hang with those characters.

Rank Horse Sire Trainer Jockey Last Start Next Start Comment
1 Catholic Boy More Than Ready Jonathan Thomas Manny Franco 2nd in Sam F. Davis / TAM March 31 — Florida Derby / GP Nice Work on Saturday at Bridlewood Farm / Will Have to Show More in Florida Derby
2 Bolt d’Oro Medaglia d’Oro Mick Ruis Javier Castellano 1st by DQ San Felipe / SA April 7 — Santa Anita Derby / SA Took His “A” Game from Practice to Playing / Can He Step Forward in SA Derby?
3 McKenzie Street Sense Bob Baffert Mike Smith DQ’d in San Felipe / SA April 7 — Santa Anita Derby / SA Won the San Felipe Fair & Square; Man to Man/Stewards Took That Away, but He Improved
4 Good Magic Curlin Chad Brown Junior Ortiz 3rd in Fountain of Youth / GP March 31 — Florida Derby / GP Wasn’t Keyed All The Way Up for FOY/Time to Crank the Engine for FLA Derby
5 Solomini Curlin Bob Baffert Flavien Prat 3rd Los Alamitos Futurity / LA March 17 — Rebel Stakes / OP 2018 Debut Comes Saturday at Oaklawn Park in Rebel Stake/Time to Take Note
6 Justify Scat Daddy Bob Baffert Drayden Van Dyke 1st in ALW / SA Undecided Overwhelming Winner in Allowance at SA on Sunday / The “Hot Horse”
7 Flameaway Scat Daddy Mark Casse Jose Lezcano 2nd in Tampa Bay Derby April 7 — Blue Grass Stakes / KEE Didn’t Have “The Trip” in Tampa Bay Derby/But Gutty to Run Stalking-Closing Second to Speed
8 Enticed Medaglia d’Oro Kiaran McLaughlin Junior Alvarado 1st in Gotham Stakes / AQU April 7 — Wood Memorial / AQU Impressive Rally to Win Gotham/Shut Down Before the Wire/
9 Sporting Chance Tiznow D. Wayne Lukas Luis Saez 3rd Southwest Stakes / OP April 14 — Arkansas Derby / OP Most Impressive Runner in Southwest / Coming Off 51/2-Month Layoff/Very Nice
10 Free Drop Billy Union Rags Dale Romans Robby Albarado 3rd in the Gotham Stakes / AQU April 7 — Blue Grass Stakes / KEE Gotham Stakes Run was “Ho Hum”/Starting to Worry If He Can Duplicate Breeders’ Futurity
11 Bravazo Awesome Again D. Wayne Lukas Miguel Mena 1st in G2 Risen Star / FG March 24 — Louisiana Derby / FG Gutty performance in Risen Star / Can He Go the Distance?/
12 Snapper Sinclair City Zip Steve Asmussen Adam Beschizza 2nd in G2 Risen Star / FG March 24 — Louisiana Derby / FG Nearly Won at Long Odds in 2nd Try on Dirt/Getting Better Quickly
AE Reride Candy Ride Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana 1st in the Mine That Bird / SUN March 31 — Dubai Derby / UAE Headed to Dubai / Can He Make Both Trips? / “Under the Radar” Type Has 4 Wins in 5 Starts
AE My Boy Jack Creative Cause J. Keith Desormeaux Kent Desormeaux 1st in G3 Southwest Stakes / OP March 24 — Louisiana Derby / FG Word Has It That He Will Now Try LA DERBY Next/Will Have to Improve to Contend
AE Promises Fulfilled Shackleford Dale Romans Irad Ortiz, Jr 1st in Fountain of Youth March 31 — Florida Derby / GP Wire to Wire Winner of FOY/Speed Bias Had to Help, Right?/We Will See When Tested
AE Quip Distorted Humor Rodolphe Brisset Florent Geroux 1st in Tampa Bay Derby April 7 — Blue Grass Stakes / KEE Impressive Winner of Tampa Bay Derby/3 Wins in 4 Career Starts/Credentials
AE Audible Into Mischief Todd Pletcher Javier Castellano 1st in the Holy Bull Stakes/GP March 31 — Florida Derby / GP Impressive In Holy Bull/Put Away All/Will He Extend Out If Pressed
AE Instilled Regard Arch Jerry Hollendorfer Javier Castellano 1st LeComte Stakes / FG March 24 — Louisiana Derby / FG 4th in the G2 Risen Star, Yet Dull Throughout/ Throw Out Race?/ More like “Throw in Towel”
AE Strike Power Speightstown Mark Hennig Luis Saez 1st in Swale Stakes /GP March 31 — Florida Derby / GP Gutty Performance in FOY/Never Getting to Winner, But 1st Time Stretching Out/Next?
AE Restoring Hope Giant’s Causeway Bob Baffert Flavien Prat 1st in MSW Event / SA March 25 — Sunland Derby / SUN Has Had 4 Published Works Since MSW Win on 2/2; Last 1 on 3/4 going 6F in 1:11.60/Race?
AE Once On Whiskey Bodemeister Bob Baffert Drayden Van Dyke 2nd in MSW Event / SA Undecided 4 Published Works Since Race on 2/3; Bullet 1/2-mile on Saturday in :48 flat/Race?